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Saturday, August 13, 2022

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Sociology professor Hank Johnston Sociology professor Hank Johnston

Hank Johnston Named Fred J. Hansen Chair in Peace Studies

New chairman hopes to make SDSU a hub for research on non-violent protests.
By Katie White

San Diego State University has named professor Hank Johnston its new Fred J. Hansen Chair in Peace Studies.

A faculty member in the Department of Sociology in the College of Arts and Letters, Johnston is an internationally known scholar of nonviolent protest and comparative political and ethnic relations.  He is also the publisher and founding editor of Mobilization: An International Quarterly, the leading research journal in the field of social movements and protest studies.

In his work, which has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation, Johnston has examined the peaceful resolution of ethnic minority nationalism in Catalonia, Spain, as well as the peaceful transition to democracy in several post-Soviet states. His current research analyzes nonviolent opposition in repressive authoritarian states, including China and Russia.

Johnston’s appointment is for two years and comes on the heels of a competitive search. The search committee selected Johnston based on his ambitious proposal which includes three major goals for the chairmanship.

“First of all, I want to start an annual conference at San Diego State University that brings together eminent scholars researching nonviolent strategies for social change,” Johnston said. “An annual conference like this would really establish SDSU as a hub for research in the field.”

The conference will be open to faculty members and students from all departments.  Johnston will encourage his students to attend, and will work with faculty in the College of Arts and Letters to take advantage of conference sessions for their classes.

Johnston’s proposal also includes plans to initiate a faculty group that brings together researchers from departments across campus.

“The group would provide a forum where researchers studying nonviolent conflict resolution and peaceful social change strategies can collegially present their work, network, comment on each other’s research, and collaborate on future projects,” Johnston said. “The goal is to encourage each other’s research and publication in the field.”

His final area of focus for the chairmanship was inspired by a visit to Germany, where he spent six weeks this summer as a visiting scholar at the University of Tübingen. Johnston said he made valuable connections with German colleagues and plans to initiate a dialogue with them about the potential for faculty and student exchanges between the universities.

“San Diego State University thrives because of creative endeavors like the ones outlined by Professor Johnston,” said Chukuka S. Enwemeka, Provost and Senior Vice President. “I have no doubt that he will be able to count on the vibrant scholarly community of the College of Arts and Letters and the university at large as he works to bring to fruition the ambitious goals that he has articulated in his proposal to the benefit of the faculty, students, and the community of San Diego State.”

The chair in peace studies was named for Fred J. Hansen. He immigrated to the United States from Denmark at age 10 and was among those who developed the first major avocado orchards in Southern California. Foreign travel convinced Hansen that if adversary nations could be encouraged to work together on projects of mutual benefit, this activity could help heal their differences. Hansen designated a portion of his estate to support this conviction.